MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — As of late Monday afternoon, all the Xcel Energy customers in Metro area affected by Friday night’s storm had their power restored. At one point over the weekend, 250,000 people were in the dark.

So, how do crews get the power back on? Good Question.

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“It starts with the customer,” Director of Xcel Energy’s NSPM Control Center & Trouble Troy Browen said. “Don’t think someone else called in. We need your phone call. Your comments let us know what’s going on.”

Friday night’s storm brought the high winds that down power lines. Xcel had followed the weather forecast and called in extra crews for the weekend. Some 750 people were ready to go as soon as the storm passed by, which is ten times the normal workers on a weekend.

Xcel’s computer systems can tell them when the large feeder lines are down, but the company relies on customers to make them aware of problems with smaller lines.

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First, they prioritize the outages. Any live downed wires and fires are addressed as well as any outages at police stations, hospitals and 9-1-1 call centers. Then crews work on the lines for the rest of the customers. The feeder lines that can reach 3000-5000 people get attention first. Then, come the tap lines that service 300-500 people, followed by the transformer level at 15-20 homes. Single customers are last.

“We have a priority system where it’s the highest customer count that’s dispatched first,” Browen said. “We want to make sure we utilize our resources to get the most customers at a given time.”

Once a crew gets their assignment, they look at the map and visually check out the entire line. If necessary, they’ll call in specialized tree crews to remove any trees. They make sure the line is de-energized, sleeve it together, get it back up and re-energize it. One two-person crew averages fixing four to five lines over one 18-hour shift.

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“The biggest thing is we take safety into account before we do anything,” Browen said. “I’d prefer that nobody got injured during the event versus getting power on to customers two to four hours sooner than we could.”

Heather Brown